Mohammad Ali Rashid Lootah Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A crackdown across Dubai unearthed an illegal money transfer racket run by 25 shops, the Department of Economic Development (DED) revealed on Saturday.

The shop operators lured Bangladeshi expatriates with the offer of cheaper money transfers to their home country. The transactions were done using an app called ‘Bkash,’ but the practice left the customers vulnerable to fraud.

All 25 shops, which were involved in the illegal activity, were not authorised to offer remittance services.

“The DED acted on a tip-off and raided the shops, spread across different areas in Dubai, and found out that none of them were licensed to provide money transfer services. All the shops advertised the illegal activity in Bengali language to avoid suspicion,” said Mohammad Ali Rashid Lootah, CEO of the Commercial Compliance and Consumer Protection sector in the DED.

The transfers were done through SIM cards from Bangladesh installed in electronic devices and no invoices were issued to customers. The shopkeepers used to scribble down customer details and the amount to be transferred and the transfer was done electronically.

“We have also confiscated the devices that were used to transfer money. First of all, none of the shops had money transfer as permitted activity in their licences and they didn’t have the mandatory approvals from the UAE Central Bank,” said Lootah.

Lootah added that such practices are harmful not only to the UAE economy and local businesses but also to people tricked by such offers.

“First of all, such illegal channels deny accurate information on the flow of cash [and thus harm the economy]. Secondly, they deprive authorised money exchanges and banks of their deserved share of business, and thirdly, customers depending on such illegal channels risk losing their hard-earned money,” he added.

Lootah urged consumers not to be tricked by such unscrupulous operators and alert the DED of any illegal business activities they come to notice. Consumers can contact the DED on the Ahlan Dubai number 600 54 5555.